Tag Archive | "nuclear weapons"

iran nuclear agreement negotiators

The Interim Iranian Nuclear Deal: Enforcement and a Right to Enrichment

On January 20, 2014, an interim agreement over Iran’s nuclear program will go into effect. The agreement is a compromise between Iran and major Western powers reached on November 24, 2013. The terms of the agreement provide that Iran will scale back activities under its nuclear program, but not dismantle it entirely. This compromise has prompted criticism that the agreement will not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, begging the questions, is there an international right to enrichment, and will enforcement of this agreement be adequate?

iran nuclear agreement negotiators

Representatives from France, Britain, U.S., and Jordan in Paris (Thierry Gesnot/Getty Images)

The agreement itself contains no explicit recognition of Tehran’s right to enrichment. While Iranian news proclaimed that it did recognize such a right, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that it did not. The question then turns on an interpretation of Article IV of the U.N. Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which Iran signed in 1968. It states, in part, that “[n]othing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination….” Many countries have read this to create a right to enrichment, whereas the U.S. has taken the position that each case should be considered individually. This view is not in alignment with the other parties to the treaty. Moreover, the U.S. does not have authority to interpret the agreement unilaterally without ratification by other parties to the treaty.

The other question raised following the announcement of the interim agreement was the means of enforcement and the consequences for Iran breaching the terms. Some of the International economic sanctions on Iran will be lifted as part of the agreement, and U.S. President Barack Obama said that the U.S. would give “modest relief” on sanctions on Iran, but would increase sanctions if Iran reneged on the deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] will play a central role in verifying that the terms are met. Reuters reported the IAEA as saying that there will be “…a significant increase in the frequency of inspections in Iran, access to more sites in the country, a need for more equipment and more analytical work….” The additional cost will come to around 6 million euros. The IAEA requested 5.5 million euros from its 160 member states to voluntarily help cover the expenses. The parties to the interim nuclear agreement are confident that the additional inspections and economic consequences of sanctions for the oil-dependent Iran will be sufficient to prevent the development of nuclear weapons.

Despite the criticism surrounding the agreement, most notably from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it remains a six-month interim agreement intended to provide additional time for negotiations to a final settlement in the decade-old nuclear dispute. The next few months will help elucidate Iran’s motivation for enrichment and any right that exists thereof. But perhaps it would also be beneficial to revisit the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Nuclear energy is no longer the golden child of clean energy when considering the progress of alternatives like solar, wind and hydro. The U.N. could consider clarifying Article IV to narrow the permissible scope of research and production of nuclear energy in recognition of its limited potential and substantial risk.

It is possible that Iran’s nuclear activities are politically motivated and its insistence on a right to enrichment is rooted in principle. Regardless, diplomacy prevailed, and the path to a permanent agreement has been established. To quote a statement from the White House:

[W]e have made concrete progress. I welcome this important step forward, and we will now focus on the critical work of pursuing a comprehensive resolution that addresses our concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Alex Milgroom is a 3L at the University of Denver and the Online Editor-in-Chief of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Kim Jong-un

North Korea Undeterred by U.N. Sanctions

On April 15, 2013, North Korea celebrated the 101st birthday of its founding leader, Kim Il Sung.   The day was filled with flowers to honor both its founder and current leader, Kim Jong Un; however, North Korea did not take a reprieve from threatening South Korea and the United Nations.  From Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, the KCNA reported that “[o]ur retaliatory action will start without any notice from now.”   Pyongyang’s comments were directed at South Korea’s protest to the celebrations.

Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong Un, Flexing His Muscles
(NPR)

This is the latest in a long line of threats North Korea has directed at the United Nations and its member countries.  Just a few days ago, Pyongyang threatened that “Japan is always in the cross-hairs of our revolutionary army and if Japan makes a slightest move, the spark of war will touch Japan first.”  North Korea warned that Tokyo would be the first city targeted for a nuclear strike.

While North Korea continues to threaten the United Nations, member countries Japan and the United States remain positive that a peaceful resolution can be reached through talks.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the regime in North Korea to stop its nuclear program and hold talks with the United States and Japan.  In response, the KCNA cited North Korea’s military leaders, stating, “If the puppet authorities truly want dialogue and negotiations, they should apologize for all anti-DPRK hostile acts, big and small, and show the compatriots their will to stop all these acts.”   Although North Korea’s media continues to insult and disregard the United Nations, many believe that talks are still a possibility and a resolution can be reached.

However, this has not prevented South Korea and the United Nations from readying for a possible North Korean attack.  South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said South Korea was closely monitoring North Korea’s moves and was ready for any attack.  The North’s threat is “regrettable,” Kim told reporters. “We will thoroughly and resolutely punish North Korea if it launches any provocation for whatever reason.”  Japan, too, launched fighters to protect its capital from the threat issued by Pyongyang.

Regardless, the current United Nations strategy against North Korea continues to have little impact.  Threats and sanctions issued by the United Nations have been met with open hostility by North Korea, resulting in its third nuclear test and continued military preparations by Pyongyang.  Many initially hoped that new sanctions would “bite, and bite hard” against North Korea, but the sanctions continue to have little effect.  Some are beginning to believe that the reality of the situation appears to be different. Chang Yong-seok, at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, believes “The ultimatum is just North Korea’s way of saying that it’s not willing or ready to talk with the South. North Korea apparently wants to keep the cross-border relations tense for some time to come.”

While the United Nations and its member countries continue to wish for a peaceful resolution with North Korea, it appears that peace may be a long way off.

Brad Bossenbroek is a third year law student at the Sturm College of Law, an editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, and a Publishing Editor for The View From Above.

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Critical Analysis: What’s up with North Korea?

University students punch the air as they march through Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang, North Korea (BBC)

University students punch the air as they march through Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang, North Korea (BBC)

Since being sanctioned by the UN in March for carrying out a third nuclear test, Pyongyang has threatened nuclear strikes on the US, formally declared war on the South, and pledged to reopen a nuclear reactor in blatant defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

On Friday, North Korea warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of foreign embassy staff if war broke out. But not a single country seems to be taking this threat seriously. Foreign embassies in the capital of Pyongyang appear to be staying put so far despite a warning. Russia is considering the request seriously. However, the British have brushed it off, considering the threat “part of a campaign of continued rhetoric” and asserting that North Korea is insinuating that it is making the request because the US poses a threat to North Korea.

Is war on the horizon?

General Walter Sharp, who until last year was the commander of US forces in Korea, explained the escalation problem to NPR.  The “counterprovocation” plan, that the US intends to invoke if the North Koreans launch even a limited artillery attack on South Korea, authorizes the South Koreans to fire back immediately. As defensive plan, at the root it is an “if you are fired at, fire back.” But this could easily mean war. U.S. officials say the counterprovocation plan and the U.S. flexing its muscles send three strong messages: the South Koreans see that the U.S. military is standing behind them; the North Koreans find out what they’d face were they to start something; and China sees how high the stakes are and why it may need to rein North Korea in.

Furthermore, the Pentagon decided to delay an intercontinental ballistic missile test that was scheduled for next week at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, for fear that it would only intensify the tensions between the US and North Korea. North Korea has become angered by the military exercises that the US and South Korea are doing. These exercises demonstrate potential power the two allies have to strike back: B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters, and ballistic missile defense-capable warships.  But while the US is taking the threats seriously, leaders continue to say that there are no obvious signs that North Korea is planning for a large-scale attack.

Does North Korea have any support internationally?

Even China, North Korea’s longtime ally, is speaking critically of North Korea’s recent activities. “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at an economic forum in Hainan province. Avoiding mentioning North Korea by name, Xi said, “[w]hile pursuing its own interests, a country should accommodate the legitimate interests of others.”

Chinese officials who value stability above all else will probably not abandon North Korea altogether during these tensions. But seeing an opportunity amid Chinese frustrations, the Obama administration is attempting to push Beijing to take a much stronger stance against the renegade country than it has in the past. China is tightening its stance; it wants dialogue to ease tensions, not war.

Mimi Faller is a 2L at DU Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Are Current U.N. Sanctions Insufficient to Deter North Korea’s Nuclear Proliferation?

2013 Nuclear Test

While the exact details remain unknown, on February 13, 2013, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test since 2010.  Early morning reports of February 13 included a large seismic event located near a prior North Korean underground nuclear test site.  Following this report, the Korean Central News Agency released a government statement confirming the nuclear test and reassuring the Korean people “that the nuclear test that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturised and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment.”

North Korean Nuclear Weapons

Parading this through downtown Pyongyang may not be the best way to win friends and influence others.
(Telegraph)

Immediate international concern followed.  Regarding North Korea’s nuclear test, President Obama of the United States said “[t]his is a highly provocative act that threatens regional stability, breaches U.N. resolutions and increases the risk of proliferation, calling for ‘further swift and credible action by the international community.”  Almost immediately, the United Nations contemplated additional sanctions, leading to North Korea condemning the international community, threatening to end the cease fire between North and South Korea and threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S.

In response, the 15-member U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on March 10 against North Korea imposing additional sanctions. These sanctions strengthened the prior 2006 Security Council Resolution issued by the U.N. in response to North Korea’s first missile test, asserting banking, trade, and travel constraints against North Korea.

North Korea is no stranger to disregarding U.N. threats and continuing its nuclear testing.  On three prior occasions, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests.  Following each event, the U.N. issued three separate resolutions in 2006, 2009, and 2010.  Thus, the question becomes what U.N. action will sufficiently deter North Korea and, hopefully, bring at least a little more cooperation between the international community and North Korea?

The 2006, 2009, and 2010 Nuclear Tests

Prior resolutions against North Korea have been unsuccessful.  The 2006 resolution states that the Security Council “[d]ecides that the DPRK shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching.”  Comparatively, the 2009 resolution reiterates that the Security Council “[d]ecides that the DPRK shall abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and immediately cease all related activities.”  Obviously, such U.N. “decisions” pose little threat or effect to North Korea, a non-member country of the U.N, because North Korea follows such measures by additional nuclear testing.

While the United Nations and its member countries remain hopeful of change, North Korea appears to be un-persuaded.  Mr. Choi, representative for South Korea, speaking in 2006, “urge[d] North Korea to heed carefully the united voice of the international community and to refrain from any action that would further aggravate the situation on the Korean peninsula.  North Korea should return immediately to the Six-Party Talks without any preconditions.  North Korea should abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programmes once and for all.”  However, as seen, North Korea ignored the hopes of the South Koreans by conducting additional missile tests in 2009, 2010, and now most recently, 2013.  If nuclear testing by North Korea bears such a threat to the peace of the international community, would harsher sanctions provide a reprieve?

Ineffectiveness of Current Economic Sanctions

The U.N. is able to provide broader sanctions, including military action, under its charter.  The U.N. Security Council’s authority vests in Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter.  Under Chapter VII, Article 39, the Security Council has such right to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”  Article 41 provides lesser economic sanctions which “may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.”  Article 42 grants greater military authority “should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”  Thus, if necessary, the U.N. may order military action against North Korea.

U.N. Security Council

What sanctions to impose today?
(Hurriyet Daily News)

The lack of effectiveness of economic action under Article 41 is apparent in North Korea’s continued nuclear testing.  One problem with the imposition of economic sanctions against North Korea is that they are enacted and enforced weakly.  Orde F. Kittrie, associate professor of law at Arizona State University, finds that U.N. nuclear sanctions pose one of four goals: (1) coercing a change in target behavior, (2) reducing or containing target ability to implement policies, (3) deterring other actors contemplating the same behavior, and (4) future possible sanctions.  While Kittrie notes that such tactics have been successful regarding nuclear proliferation in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, and Haiti, sanctions against North Korea proved insufficient in 2006.  Sanctions depriving North Korea of travel and luxury goods provide little deterrence for nuclear testing and are merely an annoyance for an area known as the “Hermit Kingdom.”[1]  As such, weak economic sanctions pose little threat to North Korea, providing little deterrence in terms of nuclear testing.

Some U.S. and U.N officials believe that new sanctions imposed in 2013 will “bite, and bite hard” against North Korea, regardless of past sanctions showing little impact.  However, many others see the same problems of the 2006 sanctions occurring in the 2013 sanctions.  While the 2013 sanctions make funneling cash more difficult, these sanctions also embargo the similar sale of high-end luxury goods including “yachts and jewelry.”  Nor do the 2013 sanctions prevent China from providing food, energy assistance and investment, as Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute notes.  As Kittrie previously said in her 2007 article, these types of economic sanctions appear to provide more of an annoyance, rather than deterrence.

Additionally, economic sanctions may simply be ineffective against North Korea’s political and economic ideologies.  North Korea has long suffered from food shortages and economic struggles, leading to self-reliance rather than international trade.  Luxury items are discouraged and seen as harmful to human development.  Thus, economic sanctions have little deterrence against the economically self-reliant North Korea.[2]

While it remains to be seen if the 2013 sanctions will effectively deter North Korea from persisting in nuclear testing, it is also questionable whether harsher restrictions should be placed against North Korea.  As U.N. Charter Articles 41 and 42 state, the U.N. Security Council possesses stronger authority to deter North Korea than its current economic sanctions.  However, current sanctions seem to have only made relations worse between North Korea and the international community, while resulting in little deterrence.  Most importantly, the implementation of current U.N. sanctions has not only led to threats by North Korea, but North Korea’s abrogation of “all agreements on non-aggression reached between the North and the South.”  Lawmakers such as Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., maintain that increasing “North Korea’s isolation” through sanctions is the best option; however, past experience indicates the ineffectiveness of this approach.  Rather, it appears that such isolation techniques have led to an increase in nuclear testing and a decrease in communication between the international community and North Korea.

Conclusion

While it remains to be seen whether the 2013 sanctions against North Korea will effectively deter nuclear testing, the past indicates that these sanctions will not.  The 2013 sanctions have already led to substantial ill-will between North Korea and the international community and little indication that North Korea will cease testing.  As such, the question remains of whether the answer is for the U.N. to invoke harsher sanctions, including potential military action under Article 42, or whether a different approach would lead to better results.

Brad Bossenbroek is a third year law student at the Sturm College of Law, an editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, and a Publishing Editor for The View From Above.


[1] Orde F. Kittrie, Adverting Catastrophe: Why the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty is Losing its Deterrence Capacity and How to Restore it, 28 Mich. J. Int’l L. 337, 355-80 (2007).

[2] Karen M. Takishita, Economic Sanctions Against North Korea: An Unsuccessful and Sanctimonious Policy Ripe for Modification, 14 Pac. Rim L. & Pol’y J. 515, 530-33 (2005).

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Critical Analysis: Eccentric 90’s American Basketball Player Attempts Diplomacy – Korean War Reignites

 

Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un talk Basketball Diplomacy court-side. (The Sun)

Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un talk Basketball Diplomacy court-side. (The Sun)

Late last month, Dennis Rodman traveled to North Korea to try his hand at unsanctioned “Basketball Diplomacy.”  More famous for his antics off the court, Rodman was a power forward for, among several other teams, the 1995 – 1998 championship winning Chicago Bulls.  Modeled after the ping pong diplomacy that the United States and China engaged in during the 1970s, Rodman and several other basketball players traveled to North Korea for an exhibition basketball game.  Rodman watched the game court side with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.  Thought to be North Korea’s first leader to support the United States, Rodman and Kim Jong-un shared laughs during the game and also at a party afterwards.  Despite not being designated an official envoy by the United States, Rodman was able to bring back a message for United States President, Barack Obama: “Kim Jong-un wants [you] to call him.”

Despite his efforts, Rodman was not able to quell the ongoing tensions between the United States and Korea.  Days after the basketball match in Pyongyang, the United States and South Korea engaged in annual joint military exercises.  In response, North Korea cut communications with South Korea and rescinded its cease-fire agreement with the United States and South Korea, signed in 1953.  Adding fuel to the fire, the UN has increased sanctions to North Korea, effectively keeping North Korea’s rich from buying yachts and sports cars, a move North Korea has vowed to retaliate against with nuclear weapons.

Although hostilities have thankfully not re-started following North Korea’s withdraw from the cease-fire agreement, tensions are on the rise.  North Korea has finally had a successful test of a long-range missile and has renewed threats to use nuclear weapons against South Korea.  In response, the United States has pledged to upgrade their missile defense system, effectively negating North Korea’s new-found capabilities.  Whether or not one or both sides are posturing remains to be seen, since China has yet to weigh in on the issue in its current state.

That outlines the current stalemate.  Dennis Rodman flew to North Korea to sit with Kim Jong-un and watch basketball.  Rodman’s suave diplomacy skills uncovered Kim Jong-un’s deep seeded desire to just have a seat at the table with a personal invitation from President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, the world waits with bated breath to see whether China will permit the United States to increase missile defense, rendering not only North Koreans missiles ineffective, but Chinese missiles as well.  

Tom Dunlop is a 2L at Denver University Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Division in Iranian Leadership

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the crowd at the conclusion of his speech in Tehran, Iran. (Washington Post)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the crowd at the conclusion of his speech in Tehran, Iran. (Washington Post)

Some argue that the West is continually trying to find ways to contain Iran and their believed attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. Recent infighting shows that the country’s leadership may be splintering leading to a fissure in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Do these public confrontations present an opportunity for the West to find workable solutions to this issue?

The Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is finding himself in new territory, wading into the internal political battles of Iran. Khamenei has been forced to respond to the ever more confrontational President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This conflict began in 2011 when Ahmadinejad challenged Khamenei over the appointment of a high-ranking intelligence ministry post. Since, Ahmadenejad has taken several other opportunities to raise tension between himself and the Supreme Leader, forcing several of Ahmadinejad’s political allies off the upcoming ballot. However, it seems that a significant majority of lawmakers are still loyal to Khamenei.

This conflict comes out of a contentious session of parliament. This session included several instances where Ahmadinejad and Iran’s legislative body frequently feuded publicly. This included the impeachment of the President’s labor minister. Also, Ahmadinejad accused a judiciary chief, and appointee of the Supreme Leader, of bribery. These public riffs come ahead of the June presidential election that will elect Ahmadinejad’s successor. Throughout this spat, Khamenei has called for calm, especially against the pressure of economic sanctions from the West.

This infighting comes in the face of renewed effort from the West in regards to Iran’s nuclear program. Last week Iran rejected negotiations with the United States. Khamenei proclaimed that if Iran wanted to build nuclear weapons, no country could stop them. The Supreme Leader insisted that before any negotiations will occur, the West must lift all sanctions because Iran will not surrender. After addressing the recent offer to negotiate, Khamenei transitioned into criticizing Ahmadinejad and the speaker of the Parliament.

There seems to be a split between the two most powerful men in Iran. Is now the time that the West may be able to leverage the divided leadership in order to reign in Iran?

 Wesley Fry is a 3L and Managing Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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News Post: U.S., Russia try to Dissuade Israel from Preemptive Strike on Iran

In recent months, tensions between Israel and Iran have been on the rise and speculation has been growing that Israel may attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (The Inquisitr)

Although Iran says its nuclear program is meant to develop energy, it has refused to negotiate guarantees that the program is peaceful, giving rise to security concerns – particularly in Israel, where leaders think that Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to the continued existence of Israel.  Recently, discussion in both the U.S. and Israel has turned to the issue of whether an Israeli strike can do enough damage to the Iranian program to be worth the risks.

Military analysts at the Pentagon say that an Israeli attack meant to setback Iran’s nuclear program would be a highly complex operation.   Michael V. Hayden, prior CIA director from 2006 to 2009, said that “airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Iran’s nuclear program were ‘beyond the capacity’ of Israel’” However, military analysts have also said that if the United States decides to get involved, it has the military power to effectuate an attack of the scale desired by Israel.

Last week, America’s top intelligence official told a senate committee that a successful bombing of Israel may set Iran’s nuclear development program back by one or two years at most. Most experts agree that Iran now possesses so much technological information that no air campaign could destroy its ability to someday produce a nuclear weapon. Both the United States and Russia have advised against a preemptive attack on Iran, but Israeli’s foreign minister has said that the state will not give in to pressure in deciding whether to attack Iran.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged in a recent television interview that Israel and the U.S. have divergent views on the best course of action on Iran. “I’m confident that (Israel’s leaders) understand our concerns that a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” Dempsey told CNN. However, Dempsey did not go so far as to say that the U.S. has persuaded the Israelis that it was best not to attack Iran.  The White House has said that it believes the intense punitive sanctions imposed on Iran have had some impact and that there is still time for a peaceful resolution to be reached.  Even so, many in the U.S. fear that Israel will act unilaterally, and that the United States will be sucked into finishing the job.  Others believe that increased U.S. involvement in the Middle-East will cause an increase in oil prices and endanger Obama’s reelection campaign.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

If Iran is Nuclear, What Could (and Should) We Do?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The International Atomic Energy Agency plans to release an updated report on Iran, in which the Agency is expected to announce its belief that Iran has now mastered the critical steps that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon.  The report allegedly also says there is no evidence that Iran has decided to build nuclear weapons, and Iran has always maintained that it only maintains a peaceful nuclear energy program.  The United States is not alone, however, in asking why Iran would acquire the materials and technology necessary to build nuclear weapons if it did not intend to do so.

The prospect of a nuclear Iran is often viewed as a destabilizing factor in an already unstable region.  Israel and Iran have a history of negative interactions regarding this issue, including Israel’s 1981 use of bombers to destroy an Iranian nuclear reactor before it could come online.  Other Arab states have supported efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the Washington Post even describes the opposition to an Iranian nuclear program as a rare source of common ground between Israelis and Arabs.

If Iran has nuclear capabilities and those capabilities are generally regarded as dangerous, the inevitable question becomes what, if anything, we should do about it.  The international community has imposed UN-backed sanctions since 2006, and the United States has imposed its own unilateral sanctions on Iran for nearly three decades.  China and Russia have resisted a fourth round of international sanctions on Iran, and though Russia’s position may be softening, China remains opposed to the idea, largely because it views further sanctions as wasted effort.

The seeming failure of the sanctions regime has led some to suggest that only the threat of force will lead to any real change.  Considering the other instability in the region, however, one has to wonder whether threats of further military campaigns would escalate an already tense situation.  The United States has been pursuing a dual-track approach that includes a combination of sanctions and incentives.

The BBC suggests that more diplomacy is the route to take, though that may just be because there is little support for military intervention in this political climate.  Meanwhile, a recent New Yorker article recommends containment through a combination of political, diplomatic, and military actions.  One could expect such containment to include tougher economic sanctions, military posturing (particularly from Israel), and diplomatic pressure.

In light of the limited success any of these policies is likely to have, are any of these actions worth the risk?  In the wake of the Arab Spring, is there a point at which a nuclear Iran, already feeling surrounded by military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, will decide it has nothing else to lose?

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